-- Question for John --
I dated a guy for 2 years. Well, we recently broke up and it’s tearing me up inside. I love him a lot but every time we got into an argument I would tell him that I’m leaving. Eventually he got tired of me saying this and he helped me move. How can I get him back? I left several large items at his home and I have been over there three nights a week since we broke up.
Do I continue this cycle in hopes that we will get back together or do I leave him alone? He only calls me maybe twice a week. I normally call him. He’s very jealous and still says things that let me know he cares but we are still not together like I want. Please help.
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-- Answer from John --
Don’t just resign yourself to wait or leave. Be proactive and communicate on a real deep and meaningful level, and then see what his response is. The following 3 points would be very impactful, if you can say them all:
1. Take responsibility for your part in what happened.
2. Suggest remedial measures you commit to take.
3. Ask if he is willing to join you and give that a shot.
Let’s discuss each part of this communication.
1. Take responsibility for your part in what happened — and do not refer to what you think his part in it was. Stay focused on being honest about yourself, and say to him is something like this:
“I guess I have a lot of emotional learning and growing up to do, because although I love you very much, and although this relationship meant more to me than anything, and although it tears me apart that we are not together — I have to look at myself and my actions and see that I created this mess by constantly threatening to leave you, when I in fact never meant that in my heart. So obviously, I need to face this self-sabotaging within myself, grow emotionally and stop destroying the very things that mean the most to me. Hopefully I will have another opportunity down the road to do things better in my life in love. Right now, I am torn apart with the destruction I have helped create right here, with you, my beloved. I am deeply sorry for hurting you and hurting us. Please forgive me.”
2. And then suggest the remedial measures, something like this:
“I ended up getting the opposite results that I really wanted to get. My behavior came out twisted when I was upset, and I hurt you and destroyed our happiness. I need to grow. I need to heal this inner thing that twisted my behavior and emotional reactions. So I am going to do whatever it takes to grow up. Read self-help books. Learn new communication tools. Get a counselor, if need be. This pain woke me up to the need for me to take responsibility and change.”
3. Finally, the invitation to him to join you in this learning and growing:
“I would like nothing better than if you were willing to join me in this kind of learning and growth. And in healing the wounds I inflicted. Which I am willing to do, whatever it takes. I don’t want or expect an answer right now from you. This is not a pressure tactic. I am going to go ahead and do personal growth work. You sit back and see if I change. But if you do feel anything in your heart as far as wanting to do more than sit back and watch — if you do want to rejoin me — in a commitment to do things absolutely differently — if you, yourself, are willing to learn and grow alongside me — I’d welcome that fully.”
Then you can relate to him the following information, which we tell everyone:
Being open to learn and grow is how to succeed in a longterm relationship. Many couples fall in love, but split up later because they end up blowing it — and do not have the right tools to deal with problems — and they never open themselves up to learn what they need to know in order to overcome a problem.
So instead of consciously seeking out and learning the right tools to work though issues, things get undealt with and turn into longterm grudges and stuckness. And a marriage seems to get permanently cemented into unhappiness and unfulfillment — tragically unnecessary and quite a waste of good heart and loving potential, simply because people don’t know the right strategies to get through their issues.
We know all this from personal experience. Even though we are counselors, we are also human, and we are a product of our society, which does not educate people to succeed in love. In a real sense, we are all taught to think and feel about love in a way that leads us to fail in longterm relationships. That’s why our divorce rate is sky high, and so many couples are far less happy than they could be.
When we first got together as a couple, we fell in love and had a great time. Then, like all other couples, we ran into difficulties. Like most couples, we did not know the right tools to overcome our problems. So they got worse. And we almost didn’t make it. But since we had already failed painfully in previous relationships, we decided to do something different this time around.
We accepted the fact that our unsolvable problems were telling us one thing — that we each needed to learn new and better tools for communicating and for working through the uncomfortable feelings that seemed to be blocking us.
And if we could do it — then so can you.